ORIGINAL REPORTING: A Red State Moves Toward New Energy
A red state template for 100% renewables? Utah bill unites Rocky Mountain Power, cities and activists; HB 411's Rocky Mountain Power-communities partnership delivers customer choice "the Utah way"
Herman K. Trabish, March 17, 2020 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: This shift shows how the drive for New Energy is coming from the bottom up and is refusing to be denied.
Utah has done what some thought impossible — getting approval from an 80% Republican legislature to move more than one-third of the state's population to 100% renewables by 2030.
House Bill 411 was shaped through unprecedented collaboration between Pacificorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) — the state's Warren Buffett-owned electric utility — and clean energy activists. It will allow nearly 37% of the state's energy load to choose a jointly-designed 100% renewables program that will meet customer demand for choice and allow utilities to replace coal generation with lower cost renewables.
"Rocky Mountain Power could have said, 'We're not interested in a path to 100% renewables,' and that would have set up a battle in the legislature or for municipalization," Park City Environmental Sustainability Manager and bill co-author Luke Cartin told Utility Dive. "But they wanted to help drive this change. If they didn't want to be a partner, things would be very different."
HB 411 is a big step for Utah, which gets 80% of its energy from fossil fuels, and for coal-dependent RMP, which serves 80% of state load.
Recent polling shows Utahns want a bigger transition to cleaner energy and cleaner air, and a new roadmap toward that transition now being debated by lawmakers suggests 411's collaborative "Utah way" approach has opened new possibilities for the state. Utah's breakthrough may also show how other coal-dependent red states can begin their own transitions, though some stakeholders say the 100% program must have a stronger provisions that new renewables are built to serve it to ensure emissions reduction gains are real.
Nine state level jurisdictions, 159 communities, and many major utilities have 100% renewables commitments, and at least 15 states are working toward them, according to Sierra Clubs' Ready for 100 project. But Utah's 80% Republican legislature presented a challenge. It passed a joint resolution in 2010 calling climate science "questionable" and those concerned about CO2 emissions "alarmists." In the last five years, however, Utah has changed… click here for more